- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 11, 2002

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Pilots, maintenance workers and others who enter secure areas of airports would undergo background checks and receive tamper-proof identification cards under plans being developed by the Transportation Security Administration.
Agency officials are discussing the issue this week with the transportation industry and interest groups. It has not been decided how to pay for the checks and the cards, though the industry and taxpayers probably will share the costs.
Transportation Department Inspector General Kenneth Mead has said that airports need to do a better job keeping unauthorized individuals away from secured areas that allow access to airplanes.
Some aviation experts believe that the knives and box cutters used by the hijackers on four airliners September 11 were hidden on the planes while they were parked. Box cutters were found on two other planes grounded after the hijackings.
All transportation employees would carry the same kind of ID card and undergo the same kind of background check, whether they work at airports, seaports, rail yards or other areas.
Each employee's card would contain biometric identifiers, such as fingerprints, and other technologies to prevent someone else from using it. The ID would be given out only after the employee underwent a background check.
"You will be assured that a person who comes to your facility for the first time can be trusted," the agency said.
Capt. John Cox, executive air safety chairman of the Air Line Pilots Association, said flight crews are often given additional searches by passenger screeners.
"We need to have a very sophisticated method of making sure the person is who they say they are and allowing them to do their jobs unencumbered by needless security screenings," Mr. Cox said.
David Stempler, president of the Air Passengers Association, is one of those scheduled to meet with the transportation agency this week. He said the employee ID card could be the prototype for a frequent-flyer card to allow airline passengers who voluntarily undergo background checks to bypass long lines at security checkpoints.
"It's the precursor to what they're going to use for passengers," Mr. Stempler said.
Meanwhile, the Transportation Security Administration said it was recruiting security screeners for the following airports: Atlanta; Boston; Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago O'Hare; Dallas; Minneapolis; New York Kennedy; Orlando, Fla.; and San Francisco.
Airline officials also said they expect to meet an April 2003 deadline for installing stronger cockpit doors to prevent hijackers from taking over airplanes.
But Michael Wascom, a spokesman for the Air Transport Association, said the cost of doing the work was more than double the Federal Aviation Administration's estimate.
Mr. Wascom said the airline industry was asking the government to pay the entire $243 million cost of installing the new doors. The federal government already has set aside $94 million, and Mr. Wascom said the additional funds could come from a $500 million security account announced by President Bush two weeks after the September 11 attacks.
"It was mandated on the airlines by the government for national security purposes," Mr. Wascom said. "The government is responsible for national security. Therefore, they should incur the cost."


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